Michael Collins title
A Revolutinary Is Born
The Birth of Michael Collins
"Mind that child. He'll be a great man yet. He'll do great things for Ireland" - Collins' father on his deathbed pointing to his six-year-old son


CONTENTS: Childhood | Working in London | IRB | The Womaniser | The Volunteer | Back to Ireland |

Childhood
"Mind that child", Collins' father, Michael Senior, said on his deathbed pointing to his six-year-old son. "He'll be a great man yet, he'll do great things for Ireland. His elderly father's words were to be prophetic but there was stilll much moulding and learning for the young Collins to go through before he would emerge as a central figure in securing Irish independence for the first time in 750 years.

Two figures very influential in Collins childhood growing up at Sam's Cross, Clonakilty, were local schoolmaster, Denis Lyons, and blacksmith, James Santry. Both instilled an acute sense of history and nationalism in the bright and lively young boy. As Collins was later to recall, "Denis Lyons and James Santry remain to me my first stalworths". As a child, Collins was fiercely competitive and was incensed at defeat in any form. At school he excelled and at the age of 15 passed the Boy Clerkship for the British Post Office. Just as the British Empire habitually drew corn from Egypt and rubber from India, Post Office recruits from West Cork was something of a tradition. Indeed, when a young child was born in the area, often the remark was passed: "Musha, 'tis the grand sorter that he'll make". And so, the young Collins was sent to London to take up a position at the Post Office Savings Bank.

Working in London
In London, he lived with his sister Hannie, also a Post Office employee, at 5 Netherwood Road, West Kensington. Collins read widely and, through his sister, mixed with London society fitting in well although he was known to confront anyone making a derogatory remark about his homeland. Collins' nationalism was further nurtured by joining the Gaelic League - a group which promted Irish culture and language - and the GAA where he played football and hurling. What he lacked in skill in these games, he more than made up for with his fiery and competitive temperament.

IRB
It was in November 1909 that his embers of nationalism really began to be fanned on being sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) at Barnsbury Hall, the local social centre, at the age of 19. Collins had little time for the Irish Parliamentary Party whose constitutional nationalism had born no fruit since the departure of Parnell. He did admire, however, Arthur Griffith and his political party, Sinn Fein, founded in 1905.

By 1910, Collins had begun work in a stockbroking firm, Horne and Co, and picked up bookeeping skills which were to prove invaluable later in life as he collected a national loan for the Republican movement.

The Womaniser
Collins looked very much the young businessman by this stage. His contemporaries recall that he was always immacualately dressed, dapper rather than ostentatious, and was seldom bereft of female company. Just short of six-foot, he cut an athletic and handsome figure with twinkling grey-blue eyes and a great shock of brown hair which swept across his forehead.

Collins, the young Irish Volunteer The Volunteer
By By mid-1914, Collins had enrolled as an Irish Volunteer - a poorly armed force formed to counter the formation of the Ulster Volunteers - in the No. 1 Company in King's Cross. Early in 1916 he recieved word that there was to be a Rising in Ireland. Collins informed his employers that he was leaving to join his unit. His employers naturally assumed he meant the British Army and was given a raise and a great send-off.

Back to Ireland
In Dublin, he soon found work with an accountancy firm and moved into lodgings at 44 Mountjoy St and began the preparations for a Rising.

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